Fringe Box



The Dragon Says: EU – In Or Out?

Published on: 1 Feb, 2016
Updated on: 1 Feb, 2016

Dragon Says 470The referendum to decide whether the UK stays in the European Union looms closer. It could be as early as June this year.

It will be one of the most important votes that we will make in our lifetime and yet you wouldn’t know it.

The level and quality of debate nationally has been deplorable. Locally, there has been no debate at all.

The political parties and national newspapers have focussed on the issue of immigration. Undoubtedly, that is important, but is it the real issue or is it just playing to people’s fears?

EU flag

The flag of the European Union.

The mass movement of people around the world, from Syria, Afghanistan and Africa will continue whether the UK is in the EU or not. The EU will not solve the refugee or migrant concern for the UK.

The nub of the question is not immigration but whether we want to continue as one of the 28 member states in the European Union with all its flaws or do we go it alone?

Are we comfortable with a democracy which seems remote from us? How many people in Guildford can name their MEP or even know that they have one?

If we stay in, we can’t hang around on the periphery for ever as we seem to now. The move to ‘an ever closer union’ is inevitable as long as there is a single currency. But we can’t loiter at the edges like a miserable relative spoiling the party.

The chances are that the UK would thrive if it struck out on its own. Why wouldn’t we? But it would be a huge risk and a peeved EU may make things difficult for us in the short and medium term if we left.

If we do vote to leave, that is a one-way ticket. There will be no going back. If we vote to stay in, a further vote to leave, within a generation, cannot be ruled out, even if it will become more and more problematic down the line as we get drawn closer into Europe as is likely.

On the other hand, we have a ready market within Europe and the clout of 500 million people in the EU, the third largest population after China and India, behind us when we deal with the large world powers.

EU map

EU map.

Businesses in general tend to want to stay in the EU. They want stability and continuity. They do not want rapid change or uncertainty. This referendum is providing plenty of that and there would be more if we voted ‘out’.

Europe also provides a moderating influence in many areas of our lives such as human rights and employment law. Many don’t like this power but it does make our ‘here today, gone tomorrow’ politicians stop and think before they crack out another populist policy.

The EU Commission investigating the Google deal is a current example where the EU can be called upon to look at principles whereas governments are often driven by expediency.

But it comes at a cost. Over time, we would be ceding our sovereignty bit by bit. We are kidding ourselves if we think otherwise.

So, do we stay or do we go? That is the question.

The Guildford Dragon NEWS is not advocating for one side or the other but we need to discuss it rationally.

We do not need national newspapers pushing their owner’s agendas down our throats. We need the ‘in’ and the ‘out’ campaign to properly engage with the voters.

We know that we will be affected whatever the outcome. Guildford is a trading centre with exporting capability to all over the world. The UK’s relationship with Europe is important to Guildford.

Whatever happens, in or out, we will make it work.

But we do not want the decision to be made in fear and ignorance.

What are your views? Please leave a reply in the box below.

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Responses to The Dragon Says: EU – In Or Out?

  1. Jim Allen Reply

    January 31, 2016 at 12:54 am

    I did think the Euro was a good idea: “buy a cup of coffee in Finland for one Euro and from Madrid for two Euro and you know your are being over-charged”.

    Then you look at Greece and Germany and the whole principle falls apart – I got that one wrong.

    I look at our border security which is currently non-existent and consider how we can be ‘policeman to the world’ yet we have the criminals entering the ‘police station’ without identity fundamentally changing our culture and again it causes concern.

    No other country in the world has more non-natives (not born in the UK) in their capital city than England. How has this been allowed to happen?

    People claim we need new blood (migration and multiculturalism) “because the English are lazy and won’t work”. How insulting and offensive to the natives of our country.

    Our youngsters cannot get “starter jobs” because they are being undercut by more experienced and older immigrants. Little wonder they are disheartened about applying for work.

    In respect of legislation, most of the technical stuff is “world wide” and passed down through the EU. If we left we would still need to comply with seat belts and lighting specification for cars, etc. A lot is simply updated from what existed in the UK before we joined, so no change.

    In respect of the Human Rights Act, it does not protect the English from persecution by local councils in respect of social service abuse of care in the community, unless you have an expensive lawyer (and who needs human rights or social services if you can afford a lawyer!).

    I have first-hand experience of the contempt a Local council had for my 80-year-old disabled mother’s human rights. It appears it’s isonly of use to the non-natives of our country and the criminals who don’t like getting caught.

    As for trade, the Land Rover 90 and 110 J C Banforth John Lewis have been in Business for 50 plus years, we can do business with the world without the EU.

    Our fishing grounds are controlled by EU quotas (sold to the highest bidder which result in dead fish, of the wrong size or species) being dumped back in the sea instead of weight of fish caught and keeping all the fish in the net.

    As for the money apparently for every tenner we pay in to the EU, we get nine back – so no gain there either.

    Why is it always England (or UK) who are doing something wrong when migrants drown in the Med or children starve in Africa? Other countries need to accept their responsibility for their own countries, and that includes France, Greece and all countries in between.

    He ain’t heavy he’s my brother, but 26 brothers on the left shoulder and 150 countries on the right of the UK is asking a little bit much.

    So my vote is ‘out’, purely to regain control of our borders and our fisheries and our money supply – and hopefully a gain a little bit of English culture back as well,

    It’s time to bring “the Smuggler” and the “Lincolnshire Poacher” back into the school curriculum.

    • David Woodhead Reply

      February 12, 2016 at 5:51 pm

      In reply to Jim Allen:

      We do have control over our borders. We’re not in the Schengen area and our border is at Calais and Dunkirk.

      But if Brexit happens and we want a trade agreement with the EU (which we will need) we will have to be in Schengen and accept freedom of movement of people and labour – just like Norway (whose Europe Minister thinks we’d be mad to leave the EU).

      Norway, although outside the EU, has three times as many migrants per capita from the EU as the UK; similarly, Switzerland has four times as many.

      France would have no reason to keep the bilateral treaty which keeps migrants in Calais and; Dunkirk; if we left the EU it would have every incentive to encourage migrants to cross the Channel so it could clear its camps.

      Incidentally, the fisheries policy has been reformed and your money supply point is irrelevant.

      • John Perkins Reply

        February 27, 2016 at 3:23 pm

        In reply to David Woodhead:

        Other countries around the world trade with the EU without being forced to join Schengen and without having to accept freedom of movement. There is no reason why Britain would have to sign up to these things.

        Fisheries policy may have been reformed (that happens every 10 years approximately), but it is still considered unsustainable by Greenpeace. Exit should mean that control and ownership of UK fisheries be returned to the UK.

        I accept your point about France, but it could hardly be considered the action of a friendly neighbour.

  2. Bernard Parke Reply

    January 31, 2016 at 10:13 am

    What could possibly go wrong with David Cameron in charge of negotiations ?

  3. Bill Antliff Reply

    January 31, 2016 at 10:30 am


    Let us have our borders back.

  4. Ken Fuller Reply

    January 31, 2016 at 3:09 pm

    OUT OUT OUT ! ! !

  5. Dave Middleton Reply

    January 31, 2016 at 6:13 pm

    I would vote to leave the EU as it now stands.

    Back when we joined, we joined the EEC (European Economic Community) as it was known then, purely as an inter-Europe trade group.
    I would be happy if that was still the case.

    However, the EEC has morphed into the EU and its gradual erosion of our nation’s sovereignty, along with its interference in virtually every aspect of our daily lives, has turned me against it.

    I don’t think leaving the EU would lead to a trade disaster for the UK. There’s a vast world out there beyond the borders of the EU to trade with; Canada, India, China, Japan, the USA, all of South America, the African continent.

    Yes it might be tough at first, but hey, we’re British! We’re tough enough!

  6. George Potter Reply

    February 1, 2016 at 10:48 am

    So what are the options for out?

    Well, there’s being part of the European Economic Area only (the Norway option) where you have to pay towards the EU budget, implement any EU regulations into your national law and still have to accept freedom of movement without getting any say over what decisions get made.

    Or there’s the even looser customs union where we still have to accept the EU’s external tariffs and pay into EU funds without having any say on what those tariffs are, still having to follow EU regulations, without access to the free trade agreement that the EU has signed for all its members with other parts of the world and without access to the market in services (the same sector which dominates our economy).

    So the only options available are staying in or coming out completely. Coming out completely would mean seeing financial services move to Frankfurt, car manufacturing move within the EU customs union and tariff slapped on 50% of our trade along with trade agreements having to be renegotiated with dozens of countries on far less favourable terms than we currently have.

    We could survive the latter but the severe damage it would do to our economy can only be justified if you truly believe there is a severe threat to our national sovereignty from EU membership.

    So let’s remember that the EU cannot pass any laws without the consent of our democratically elected representatives in the European Parliament, that the European Commission can be sacked (and has been at times) by the European Parliament, that the Council of Ministers (which acts as the EU equivalent of the House of Lords) is composed of ministers from our national governments and that the European Council (which is a long term strategy deciding body) is composed of our national heads of government.

    If the EU is undemocratic it’s only because of the failure of our media to report on it to the public and because too much of it is given over to representing the interests of our national governments rather than the people directly (though if you call for more decisions to be made by the European parliament rather than national governments behind closed doors then you get accused of wanting a United States of Europe).

    And let’s not forget that the limited amount of sovereignty which we have merged with that of other countries at a European level (only 5% of our laws get made by the EU) is overwhelmingly in areas where it makes sense to do so.

    Rather than having different national laws for patents we have a single European patents office to cut down bureaucracy. Rather than having 28 competing definitions of car safety we have a single European safety standard. And rather than criminals being able to nip across a border to avoid prosecution we have laws enabling police forces to share information and act across national borders to crack down on criminal gangs.

    To me, regaining a tiny amount of sovereignty (which we quite happily give away in UN and other international treaties all the time) for the sake of being poorer and isolated but purist is mad.

    But that’s the negative argument.

    The positive argument for staying in the EU is the same as that for Scotland staying in the UK:

    We are stronger together than we are alone.

    China has 1.6 billion people, India has 1 billion, the US has 320 million. How are we meant to compete with them, or stand up to the forces of globalised markets on our own with just 65 million people and a declining share of the world economy?

    How are we meant to tackle threats like climate change and terrorism, which don’t respect national borders, on our own? How are we meant to command influence on the world stage on our own?

    I would much rather live in a Great Britain and an England that is a world leader, influencing the world and able to stand strong with others against the storms of a globalised economy and the threats that face us, able to thrive in the face of opportunity and obstacles alike than live in a Little Britain that is poor, isolated and cowering behind the Channel and reduced to being nothing more than a second rate American client state.

    That’s the choice this referendum offers. The choice of prosperity, security and influence or poverty, insecurity and irrelevance.

    There’s no doubt which of those options I’d prefer for myself, my children and my children’s children.

    • Jim Allen Reply

      February 2, 2016 at 1:24 am

      In reply to George Potter:

      You seem incensed that anyone should consider leaving the EU, in fact you call them ‘mad’.

      I don’t like being called mad and I have the certificate to prove I’m not mad (now)!

      While you make the unsubstantiated claims of finance houses moving to Frankfort and having to comply with EU car regulations, actually they are ‘international’ not EU – simply passed down through the EU.

      We are not so endangered of losing our sovereignty more our security (a far more worrying fact) and I note you fail to mention (while on the subject of money) the date when the EU accounts were last ‘signed off. Oh there isn’t one! So all is not well in the EU house.

      As for competing, that’s what you do on the sports field, not in Business.

      In business you supply a product required by your (potential) customers. You can’t compete with a juggernaut when you have a pick-up truck, but you can go where the juggernaut can’t. So you choose you clients and serve them well and you won’t have a problem.

      The ottom line is, what will happen if we pull out is as unpredictable as if we stay in.

      We must consider our homeland first and Europe second for as sure as eggs is eggs.

      When the chips are down in two or three years time, France Germany, Spain, and Italy will consider their homelands first and the EU second.

      I don’t know the correct answer, but scaremongering to keep us in is not the way forward to find the correct answer.

      • George Potter Reply

        February 2, 2016 at 1:49 pm

        In reply to Jim Allen:

        I’m not incensed, merely perplexed that seemingly intelligent people can come to such bizarre conclusions. Leaving the EU is, as far as I’m concerned, mad. That doesn’t mean for a moment that I think people who want to leave the EU are themselves mad.

        Financial services base themselves in the City of London because we’re English speaking and have access to the single market in services, making us the gateway to Europe. If we lose the access to the single market in services, which is what leaving the EU would entail, then why wouldn’t they relocate to be within the single market?

        You might call the car regulations international but you’re wrong. Stuff like the car safety test is set at a European level but prior to that it was being set separately in each country (the US has its own version of the test for example which isn’t compatible with the European one).

        But that’s small fry compared to the impact it would have on our car manufacturers if they suddenly found themselves outside the EU and facing tariffs to sell cars made in the UK to European markets. They’d relocate as soon as they possibly could.

        The EU accounts, incidentally, have been signed off every year since 2007 (prior to that they weren’t signed off because national governments failed to account properly for whether they’d spent money given to them by the EU on the projects which it was meant for).

        Which is a rather good lesson in why you shouldn’t rely on tabloid newspapers for your knowledge of what’s actually happening in the world.

        If you want to know what life outside the EU looks like then you need look no further than the Chinese president’s visit to the UK last year.

        George Osborne and David Cameron bowing and scraping and laying out the red carpet for a communist dictator and selling off nuclear power stations and anything else they can to a foreign country in the hope that we might get a few crumbs in return.

        That’s what being outside the EU would force us to be like all the time. Everything in this country would be for sale to the highest bidder because we’d be too isolated to be able to afford to say no.

        Our governments left with no choice but to sell us out to the new superpowers because we’d be too weak to stand up for ourselves or our national interests when China and America threaten to destroy our economies unless we dance to their tune.

        Our European neighbours generally share the same interests with us. What damages the British economy damages their economies. What harms our environment, our security and our safety harms them as well. Sheer proximity means we’ll always have far more in common when it comes to our interests than we will with countries thousands of miles away.

        • John Perkins Reply

          February 6, 2016 at 11:04 am

          George Potter says that he is not calling people who want to leave the EU mad, but then describes them as seemingly intelligent rather than actually and their conclusions as bizarre rather than rational and repeats his claim that the desire to leave is mad. It is not mad to hold a contrary view.

          Yes, one reason for financial services using London as a base is because it is an English-speaking place, so how would that change if we left the EU?

          There is no certainty that we would lose access to the single market if we left.

          There might be legal and practical difficulties (within the EU and internationally) if any attempt were made to exclude London-based services.

          As for relocation, the cost of transferring all those skyscrapers and the workers in them to Frankfurt might just prove prohibitive. Frankfurt itself would need a massive building programme, at least doubling its size. Who would pay for all that?

          I’m not sure who “our car manufacturers” are: Nissan, Toyota and Honda are Japanese, Bentley, Mini, Rolls-Royce and Vauxhall are all German, Jaguar and Land Rover are Indian and Ford are American.

          They might choose to relocate (if the benefit outweighed the cost), but it’s possible they would do so anyway if ever the benefit exceeded the cost.

          I accept there is an increased risk of some manufacturers relocating, but it’s far from a foregone conclusion that they would do so.

          The EU may be the UK’s biggest export market for cars, but it is not the only one; there’s a big world out there.

          And, as for tariffs, I wonder how much Mercedes, BMW, Volkswagen, Skoda, Renault, Seat etc. would gain if the UK were to impose the same tariffs on EU imports.

          It’s debatable whether we export more cars to Europe or import more from them as the figures are roughly similar and change all the time.

          It might well be that life outside the EU would consist of “bowing and scraping” to foreign dictators, but last year we were still in the EU.

          Of course it might only be weakness in David Cameron – witness the “few crumbs” he is begging from Angela Merkel. Then again, perhaps it’s a feature of the UK membership of the EU.

          “Too isolated”, “too weak”, “threaten to destroy”. Why? Please provide something tangible to support these opinions, otherwise it’s just stirring up unnecessary fear and hatred.

          Yes, people in Europe share many interests with us and it is and always will be to our mutual benefit to have good relations with them. But I suggest the British as a people have more in common with those in New Zealand and Australia (both thousands of miles away) than, say, Greece (1,400 miles away) or France (26 miles away).

          In any case there is no logical reason why mutual interest should be constrained by proximity; the UK derives benefit from its good relationship with Japan.

  7. Lisa Wright Reply

    February 1, 2016 at 3:13 pm

    I agree with the Dragon.

    I’d call myself pretty smart, interested in business, politics etc but have no actual factual knowledge about the for and against policies for staying in Europe.

    From a very personal prospective, if I choose to move to Spain or Austria in the short term I can do so very easily. I like the ease of only needing Euros. Business is definitely cheaper and easier across Europe when you only deal in one currency.

    Most immigrants that I know come from South Africa, Australia, USA etc. Ditto the very diverse population in Guildford.

    Politically, I think I prefer Europe to make some high level policies, especially regarding environmental welfare as our national government doesn’t seem overly bothered.

    However, I’ve not decided yet.

    • Anna-Marie Davis Reply

      February 4, 2016 at 11:12 am

      In reply to Lisa Wright:

      I think it is important to note that Europe will still have the Euro if Britain decide to leave the EU.

      Harry Eve, below, is correct, the real issue is a population one.

      We have a high basic wage, that attracts European migrants, perfectly legally and wishing to work. This leads to an increase in population, which leads to a shortage of houses.

      The Tory government loves housing shortages, because they enable large-scale building programmes to be held back, then enforced from above, which means they can boost GDP as and when they fancy. It is a political tool.

      If we didn’t have net migration of 333,000 per annum (and those are the ones we know about) we wouldn’t have a housing crises, and we wouldn’t have to build on the green belt and the government wouldn’t be able to manipulate the GDP using housing demand.

      What did George Osborne say, “don’t let it be said that I didn’t build.”

      This is another reason why The right to buy council houses has not been repealed; despite a massive shortage in social housing, it forces a situation where building is used for growth, both in the national product, and their friends the developers bank accounts.

      This is why Cameron is voting in.

      Immigration has brought considerable value to this country over many years, and we are richer for it. But you can’t fit 20 men on a 10-man boat.

      London is now the most populous city in the EU, with 5,177 people per sq kilometre, and a worrying government rhetoric to remove the green belt and double the population of Guildford.

      As someone who now finds the sheer number of people in London unpleasant, and would rather stay in Guildford than be forced out of it as it becomes consumed by London, I will be voting out, unless suitable means are found to curb net migration, we will lose the NHS, and that is my reasoning.

    • Adam Knight Reply

      February 4, 2016 at 2:57 pm

      In reply to Lisa Wright:

      I am not sure I understand your second point… if Britain leaves the EU then the EURO currency will still exist exactly the same as it does now, so you will still be able to do cheap business in one currency across Europe…

  8. Mary Bedforth Reply

    February 1, 2016 at 5:55 pm

    We have 10 MEPs. Their response to a letter is usually pathetic, mostly nil.

    Here they are:

    The EU is an undemocratic bureaucracy. Ever tried wading through their websites?

    • George Dokimakis Reply

      February 2, 2016 at 9:26 am

      In reply to Mary Bedforth, the website is an issue but one has only to look at the disgrace that is the Guildford Borough Council website and try to find information.

      Personally, I had dealings with Mrs Anneliese Dodds and found her quite responsive.

      If there are issues contacting one MEP I would suggest trying a different one as they all represent us.

    • Mark Insoll Reply

      February 10, 2016 at 9:33 am

      In reply to Mary Bedforth:

      A better website for contacting your MEP – and finding out more about the European Parliament – is this one:

  9. Eddie Russell Reply

    February 2, 2016 at 11:07 am

    I’m sure Mr Dokimakis, being involved in the Labour party, you were able to get a response from Mrs Dodds.

    However, when you click on the link supplied by Mary Bedforth, for which many thanks, Mrs Dodds is the only one of the 10 for whom no address or email contact is given!

  10. George Potter Reply

    February 2, 2016 at 1:51 pm

    I can’t comment on how good other MEPs are but I can certainly say that Catherine Bearder MEP is probably one of the best I’ve ever heard of at replying to emails and helping constituents.

    I don’t agree with all of her views but she’s certainly diligent at representing her constituents.

  11. George Potter Reply

    February 2, 2016 at 2:14 pm

    Incidentally, and rather impressively, that list of MEPs provided by Surrey County Council has been out of date since the 2014 European elections.

  12. Sue Fox Reply

    February 2, 2016 at 2:28 pm

    Yes, yes, stay with the EU, you can’t influence any club/organisation if you’re not a member.

    The EU is far from perfect, we need strong people to change many things including the CAP.

    The UK has been built by both Anglo-Saxons and the rest of us, please do not try and revert to fortress Britain. We are known for our
    openness, liberal and welcoming attitudes.

    As a Young Liberal I chaired public meetings in Maidenhead, not dissimilar to here, and called on the electorate and gave dozens of people lifts to the polls so they could hopefully vote yes.

    I’m the child of immigrants from Ireland and have relatives all over the world including mainland Europe who benefit from the EU as does the EU benefit us.

    So please listen to the debates and stay in!

    • Jim Allen Reply

      February 3, 2016 at 12:12 am

      In reply to Sue Fox:

      What I will do is listen to all the points, ‘destroy’ those which are ‘tripe’ and waffle and with what’s left make a decision.

      And I remain unconvinced to the stay in arguments.

    • James McColl Reply

      February 8, 2016 at 8:26 am

      In reply to Sue Fox:

      We don’t need to influence it – just do business with it and that’s achievable through other means.

  13. John Lomas Reply

    February 3, 2016 at 1:13 pm

    Following yesterday’s “announcement” I am trying to sort out this phrase.

    “Titanic deckchairs the on rearranged. The been have”.

  14. Harry Eve Reply

    February 3, 2016 at 2:40 pm

    The fundamental problem with EU freedom of movement is the disparity in basic earnings between member states.

    This is not being addressed. The result is that the more resourceful Europeans move to states offering significantly higher wages putting those states services and infrastructure (such as housing and schools) under pressure.

    The state they left behind also loses its more resourceful, mostly young citizens and that must be harmful to its attempts to make economic progress.

    It is a vicious circle perpetuated by EU ideology.

    In the past we had the brain drain – clever UK people leaving for greener pastures elsewhere. We didn’t like that either.

    The argument that we need EU immigrants to do certain jobs is unsustainable – their country of origin needs them too and, if we cannot do all the things we need to do, what does that say about our society?

    • Terry Stevenson Reply

      February 5, 2016 at 12:50 pm

      In reply to Harry Eve:

      Since immigration appears to be a key topic, here’s an interesting statistic:

      Within the NHS, 11% of all staff and 26% of doctors are non-British.

      Presumably, the NHS (and Premier league football) will be exempt from any restrictions.

      • Harry Eve Reply

        February 5, 2016 at 6:02 pm

        In reply to Terry Stevenson:

        Do you have the equivalent figures for EU immigrants?

        My understanding is that non-EU immigrants are subject to controls that enable us to allow immigration for jobs that we need to fill (e.g. NHS) – although it would still be better if we paid/trained sufficient to fill the posts (and retain) with people born in the UK.

        I suppose it comes back to money again and a reluctance (and political difficulty) to raise tax.

        Perhaps we should introduce a special higher rate tax for overpaid footballers!

        I should stress that I see the main issue with immigration on the current scale as being the pressure placed on services, infrastructure and housing.

        Also, with the adverse effects on worldwide food production that are likely in the near future with climate change, it will be important to be self-sufficient in food production and we are nowhere near that.

        Perhaps we need a system that ensures EU migrants are not paid more in the country receiving them than they could earn in the country of origin.

        Employers could pay the balance of living wage into their national budget to pay for services, etc.

        This would create a lot of jobs (usually regarded as a good thing) – albeit for accountants and bureaucrats of which we probably have sufficient.

        Just an idea – over to others to shoot it down.

        • Terry Stevenson Reply

          February 7, 2016 at 1:15 am

          In reply to Harry Eve:

          You appear to be suggesting universal living standards, taxation etc.

          Didn’t the communists try that, rather unsuccessfully.

          • Harry Eve

            February 8, 2016 at 10:04 pm

            In reply to Terry Stevenson:

            I was not suggesting that – so perhaps I did not explain the proposal very well.

            I was trying to find a way of allowing freedom of movement but without a significant financial incentive to do so.

            There are two main reasons why you might want to work in a different EU country – no jobs at home or much better pay.

            It was the latter point that I was trying to address.

            A solution to “no jobs at home” could be to find a way of creating jobs in the home country. “No jobs at home” has applied in the UK (“Nay more work on Maggie’s farm”) in the past as recorded by the song “Why aye man” (Dire Straits).

            Mark Insoll has covered the changing fortunes aspect in some detail in a separate comment – albeit from a more EU-friendly point of view than mine.

            Freedom of movement with no control is seen by the EU as vital regardless of any problems it creates in the receiving country or the country of origin.

            It is the dogmatic approach of the EU, and its failure to acknowledge problems – and find solutions quickly, that annoys me. If its broken, fix it properly or throw it away.

      • Anna-Marie Davis Reply

        February 14, 2016 at 5:05 pm

        In reply to Terry Stevenson:

        Just because we leave the EU does not mean we cannot allow qualified professionals in shortage professions to come to England.

        This is a much made and completely incorrect argument.

        Leaving the EU means that we can choose whether someone has a skill set that we require, or is subject to a regime from which we can provide them refuge.

        If we need doctors, we will give doctors the right to come and work here. To think otherwise is just misinformed.

        No one is suggesting that leaving the EU means no Europeans can work in England.

        People from all over the world work in England, and English people work all over the world.

        The EU has nothing to do with it.

        It also means that we will be free to offer refugee status to those we choose, rather than being doled out a portion of economic migrants welcomed by other member nations, eager to travel to the most generous benefits regime.

        I do however agree that a sensible debate will be difficult to have, given the number of ill-informed comments relating to doctors and the Euro, I see on this comments section.

        To be honest I quite like the NHS and the prospect of a pension.

  15. Terry Stevenson Reply

    February 3, 2016 at 4:25 pm

    I want my bent bananas back, or was it straight ones which were outlawed by the EU? (allegedly according to the British / sorry Australian / no make that US press).

    Next, they’ll be suggesting that almost everyone that comes to Britain is a criminal / benefit scrounger / or wants to destroy the fabric of our society (albeit that there’s no such thing as society, just individuals). Oh, they’ve done that already.

    With such contortion of the truth, I very much doubt there will be much chance of a reasoned debate.

  16. Stuart Barnes Reply

    February 4, 2016 at 10:20 am

    This may be our only/last chance to get out of this corrupt socialist undemocratic organisation which swallows up our hard-earned taxes and spends them on things which we do not want or support.

    Vote ‘out’ and let us control our borders, our country and our lives again.

    The fact that Cameron, Corbyn, BBC and big business are all in favour of the EU (and Dave’s pretend renegotiation) should tell us something. If they are in favour obviously we should be against.

    A final point, what other organisation which had not had its accounts certified as true and fair for 19 years in a row would still be in business? Only the EU can get away with it – and our money!

    • David Woodhead Reply

      February 12, 2016 at 5:58 pm

      In reply to Stuart Barnes:

      It’s not true that the EU’s accounts have not been signed off for 19 years. This is one of countless myths propagated by Ukip, the Daily Express, etc.

      In fact, they’ve been signed off by the Court of Auditors every year from 2007 onwards.

      As for controlling our borders, see my reply to Jim Allen.

      • Stuart Barnes Reply

        February 19, 2016 at 8:01 am

        In reply to David Woodhead.

        As a chartered accountant I am well aware of audit points and it is true that the EU auditors have refused to sign off its accounts for 19 years in succession.
        Where do you get your “facts” from?

        If you read the chartered accountants’ magazine Economia you will find that it is not disputed.

  17. John Perkins Reply

    February 4, 2016 at 12:31 pm

    I would like to address some of the points you raise when posing your question.

    “The nub of the question is not immigration.”

    Quite so. Why then is it that all the main parties seem only to debate immigration?

    My opinion is that they do it to distract from the real issues.

    “Are we comfortable with a democracy which seems remote from us?”

    The EU is not a democracy and never was. Members are allowed to elect MEPs who have no power to make law; only to agree or disagree about the laws introduced by the unelected commission. They never disagree. That is a bureaucracy or possibly an autocracy, but very much not a democracy.

    “If we stay in, we can’t hang around on the periphery for ever as we seem to now.”

    We are constantly told that we are already at the centre of Europe and that leaving would remove that privilege. If we really were at the centre, David Cameron would not have to be begging Angela Merkel for small favours.

    Geographically and economically, and therefore politically, we seem fated to be always on the periphery.

    “We can’t loiter at the edges like a miserable relative spoiling the party.”

    Who says the EU is having a party? The Greeks and Spanish might legitimately claim that the party ended for them some time ago.

    Who says we are being miserable? It is fair and reasonable that people have concerns about how they are governed and controlled, surely that is the essence of democracy.

    “It would be a huge risk and a peeved EU may make things difficult for us in the short and medium term if we left.”

    A “peeved EU”? No truly world leader should ever descend to such childishness.

    How exactly would it be possible for the EU to “make things difficult”? The UK pays more to the EU than it receives. Trade and trade barriers are two-way things and the EU could not legally raise any barriers that could not also be raised against them. Not to mention the fishing rights that were appropriated as part of the price of entry and would have to be given back.

    “If we do vote to leave, that is a one-way ticket.”

    Why? Actually, as you state, staying in is more of a “one-way ticket” – aquis communautaire is legal proof of that and the repeated referendums offered to other countries (vote in favour or vote again) are practical proof.

    “We have a ready market within Europe and the clout of 500 million people in the EU.”

    The US also has a “ready market” within Europe, as do Norway and Switzerland.

    How many of those 500 million people believe they have “clout”?

    Do Russia (140 million) or Indonesia (250 million) or Pakistan (190 million) or Nigeria (180 million) have “clout”? What is the magic number which conveys “clout”?

    “Businesses in general tend to want to stay in the EU.”

    I think you mean “big businesses”, such as Google, Starbucks, Vodafone and Goldman Sachs. Small businesses, that is 80% of UK businesses, tend to want what is best for them individually.

    “They want stability and continuity.”
    Of course they do – there are huge tax advantages to them, though not to ordinary people.

    “There would be more [uncertainty] if we voted ‘out’.”

    Why so? Is not the state of the Euro an uncertainty? How about the economies of the smaller nations? Greece and Italy have only the certainty that they must do as they’re told. EU meddling in the affairs of Ukraine causes great uncertainty and instability. Who is to say that our leaving would be worse?

    “Europe also provides a moderating influence in many areas of our lives such as human rights and employment law.”

    The ‘Human Rights’ court (also unelected) has done at least as much harm as good, probably more.

    What moderating influence is employment law applying to junior doctors?

    Yes, we have politicians who pursue short-term populist policies, but that has become very much worse since we joined the EU.

    “The EU Commission investigating the Google deal is a current example where the EU can be called upon to look at principles whereas governments are often driven by expediency.”

    In fact, the commission is likely to find the UK at fault and issue us with a fine.

    Google obeys all EU and UK laws in its avoidance of tax – all multi-national companies that avoid tax do the same.

    That is why Vodafone appears to be based in Luxembourg and why almost 10% of world GDP goes through the Netherlands. What principles are being upheld or even looked at?

    • David Woodhead Reply

      February 12, 2016 at 6:08 pm

      In reply to John Perkins:

      The ‘unelected commission’ does not make laws and MEPs are not powerless.

      The Commission is the EU’s civil service (employing, incidentally, no more people than a medium-sized English city) and the European Parliament has the power to dismiss the Commission (as it has done on one occasion and could do again).

      Democratic accountability is exercised not only by directly-elected MEPs but also by the European Council and Council of Ministers, whose members are all elected.

      We are still a sovereign country with a sovereign parliament. Ironically, Brexit would be the ultimate exercise of our sovereignty – but still a stupid thing to do.

      • Anna-Marie Davis Reply

        February 14, 2016 at 5:10 pm

        In reply to David Woodhead:

        Sadly this is not the case, the Commission has been delegated rule making powers under Articles 290 and 291 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, and now has taken the liberty of delegating these to various unelected agencies, despite this being legally spurious, see the much debated Meroni principles.

        The UK has taken the EU to court twice on this basis, and lost, despite the Attorney General conceding the point.

        Frankly, Parliament doesn’t have the necessary skill set to make the detailed laws, especially in relation to financial services provision and regulation, and these are either delegated or conferred to agencies and other EU bodies with legal personality and no accountability.

      • John Perkins Reply

        February 27, 2016 at 4:17 pm

        In reply to David Woodhead:

        I did not state that MEPs are powerless; I stated that they have no power to make law, which is true.

        The European Commission proposes law. It consists of 28 members, each one appointed, not elected, by a member state. The president is elected, but only by the European Parliament. There is also a wider body of 20,000 plus civil servants, none of them elected by anyone.

        The Council of the European Union is another 28-member body of appointees, which may also propose or even create law. Under some circumstances it need only consult the European Parliament, mostly the Parliament has to agree.

        I think it’s fair to describe the Commission and the Council as ‘unelected’, in the same way as Whitehall civil servants are unelected.

        The difference is that Parliament in this country makes law and the Civil Service administers it. In the EU the ‘civil service’ makes law and the Parliament merely votes to ratify it, or not.

  18. David Wragg Reply

    February 5, 2016 at 11:51 am

    I think some myths need to be cleared up in this in/out debate.

    First, if we go for complete sovereignty, many suggest that we will have to face tariffs before exporting to Europe. While the EU could do this, the fact is they won’t as the balance of trade is in their favour.

    Second, if we have complete sovereignty, we will regain control of our borders, agriculture and fisheries.

    Third, the EU has not brought peace to Europe, that was NATO and the threat of Soviet-era aggression. That Putin’s Russia is now proving to be expansionist shows just how weak the EU’s response has been. In fact, Russian bullying and expansion pre-dated the Bolshevik Revolution.

    Fourth, the Euro is unworkable without complete political union with a central bank dictating interest rates, etc, and we should bear in mind that the USA did not have a single currency until political union was achieved. Trouble is that one size does not fit all and what is suitable for Germany does not suit countries like Ireland or Greece.

    Fifth, low cost immigrant workers have suppressed wages and also made it easy for businesses to avoid the investment necessary for productivity gains.

    Finally, talk about migration being beneficial is nonsense as we have never had such massive numbers coming as we have in the past twenty years, which is changing the face of our towns and cities and alo our way of life.

    Putting Cameron in charge of negotiations was a nonsense as he told us that he would negotiate and then campaign for the UK to stay in, which is tantamount to saying that he would take whatever he was offered, so no real negotiations!

    • David Woodhead Reply

      February 12, 2016 at 6:18 pm

      In reply to David Wragg:

      Mr Wragg says “the balance of trade is in their (the EU’s) favour.” But whereas about half of our trade is with the rest of the EU, only 5% of its trade is with us. (In any case, what is surprising about the fact that 27 countries sell more to one country than one country sells to 27?)

      In the modern world there is no such thing as ‘complete sovereignty’.

      For example, we have long ago surrendered sovereignty to NATO by agreeing to go to war against whoever attacks one of its other members. A shared sovereignty in the EU is worth more than the illusion of national sovereignty.

      Ending centuries of war in Europe was the inspiration for the EU: that’s why NATO’s Secretary-General wants us in the EU. NATO couldn’t do anything about Russia’s activities in Ukraine; it’s the EU that has instigated sanctions.

      All the objective evidence says immigrants have boosted our GDP: the vast majority come to work, pay their taxes, do jobs many Brits won’t do and make up for our skills deficiency. Without them our NHS, agriculture and hotel and catering industry would not be able to function.

  19. Danny Reddick Reply

    February 5, 2016 at 10:18 pm

    I think the main contenders for the stay in vote are generally promoting to vote that way from an informed political or financial perspective.

    What I mean is that their leaning towards staying in is on a self protecting stance.

    The main reasons we hear to stay in are mostly that business will suffer if we opt out and the bankers from the city might take flight.

    So the people voting to stay mostly have a financial incentive.

    Though please correct me if I am wrong, anyone who can stand up and argue that finance isn’t the strongest reason that people will vote to stay in? Where as there seem to be many lifestyle reasons to opt out?

  20. Jim Allen Reply

    February 6, 2016 at 4:46 pm

    We explored the world and created the Commonwealth – then we joined the ‘not so Common Market’.

    Now it’s time to explore the world again!

  21. George Potter Reply

    February 7, 2016 at 11:52 am

    GDP per person in the Commonwealth is less than $5,000 a year. In the EU it’s almost $35,000 a year.

    British firms like Land Rover and John Lewis might have existed long before we joined the market but I’d love to know how places like the Gambia would buy enough Land Rovers and John Lewis fridges to make up for the 10% plus tariffs that would be slapped on our exports into the EU.

    • David Wragg Reply

      February 7, 2016 at 6:59 pm

      If George Potter thinks that the EU can happily slap a 10% tariff on our exports, he is forgetting that the balance of trade is in their favour and they would be risking reciprocal action by the UK.

  22. Eduardo Legname Reply

    February 7, 2016 at 3:51 pm

    I agree with the Dragon.

    I am Italian. I can’t see what the benefit is for the UK outside the EU.

    But as the EU grows up and matures evolving into a more complex organisation, national fears spread around Europe from every member to blame EU for every problem.

    Sort of Texas complaints to DC, Quebec to Ottawa, Catalunya to Madrid, North Italy to Rome or yes, Edinburgh to Westminster.

    There have been successes. Switzerland leaving the Roman Germanic empire and failures like Portugal splitting Spain, Flemish independence. Greenland from Denmark did not work really well and yes the Irish don’t look well being non UK, with a rare lack of national feeling for the Northern Irish since 1922 (almost 100 years of turmoil).

    Hence I think is all about national feelings and every Brit will finally vote more with their hearts than with a rational script (despite national debate on one side or the other trying to be more sophisticated or emphasising on how much info or qualifications are needed to understand the vote).

    So go and do it..! Whatever happens afterwards, these will have to be assumed positively by everybody (including Europe, of course).

    My personal feeling is that nothing will change. Nothing looks different in Switzerland, Norway. Iceland has gone bankrupt for their irresponsible bankers, so no at a good mirror to look at.

  23. James McColl Reply

    February 8, 2016 at 8:24 am

    Vote out.

    Unelected, corrupt and unaccountable bureaucracy in a foreign country setting our laws, border controls, fishing territories and sovereignty.

    Why do you think we fought two world wars? Answer: to stop the Germans from controlling us – just take a look! Would you spend £50 million per day on that? Oh yes, we do! Britain is not “European” in any sense of the word.

    I bitterly regret voting yes in 1975, but was conned because I thought we were just signing up to a free-trade agreement.

    We will cope perfectly well outside the so-called EU, will set up trade agreements independently and regain our national pride. We were fine before and will be again.

    Cameron has come back with nothing and sells it to us as a victory. Margaret would turn in her grave.

    What annoys me in particular is cabinet ministers with privately-held Euro-sceptical views not coming forward because they put their jobs ahead of their county. Come on – be brave.

    I’m not buying Cameron’s whitewash and will definitely vote out.

    It might be all become academic because we are witnessing the beginning of its self-destruction in any case, triggered by allowing “poor” countries to join just for the benefit of Germany.

    • David Woodhead Reply

      February 12, 2016 at 6:33 pm

      Has James McColl written a spoof?

      Hatred of foreigners is just irrational prejudice. How can anyone with any intelligence say Britain is “not ‘European’ in any sense of the word”?

      Historically, culturally, geographically, ancestrally of course we’re European and proud of it.

      Where do you think Saxons, Celts and Danes came from?

      Mr McColl was right to vote yes in 1975; we had been in a purely ‘free trade agreement’ called EFTA and wanted more than it could offer – i.e. the EEC, now the EU.

      Trade agreements: what’s the point of exchanging a favourable trading position within the EU for an inevitably less favourable one outside?

      For one thing, we would still have to agree to freedom of movement of labour and we’d still have to pay into the EU budget but without any influence. Look at Norway and Switzerland; no wonder the Norwegian Europe Minister says we’d be mad to leave the EU.

      As for “Margaret”, remember she said: “Britain does not dream of some cosy, isolated existence on the fringes of the European Community. Our destiny is in Europe, as part of the community.”

      • Stuart Barnes Reply

        February 19, 2016 at 8:27 am

        In reply to David Woodhead:

        Apart from most of the highly questionable other points made by him in the above comments and those higher up in this chain, the implication that our greatest PM would have had any sympathy with the current corrupt EU is offensive to the memory of that great lady. Please desist.

  24. Mark Insoll Reply

    February 8, 2016 at 5:21 pm

    The economic health of regions can fluctuate significantly over relatively short periods of time.

    For example, between 1980 and 1985, the northern half of Britain saw more than a million jobs disappear; ten times the number lost in the south. Not surprisingly, many people from the north sought work in the south.

    Since the 1980s, due to the success of the UK financial sector, Britain has done very well compared to many other parts of Europe. No surprise then that as soon as freedom of movement was introduced, people from less prosperous regions packed their bags and came here.

    However, things have a habit of changing.

    There is no guarantee that London will remain the financial powerhouse that it is, particularly if we leave the EU.

    In fact, many already judge it to be a victim of its own success; vibrant sure, but also very crowded and forbiddingly expensive. Bright eyes are turning further afield. Witness the number of young Brits now working in Berlin.

    As things stand, a UK passport allows a Briton to study, work, set up a business and retire with reasonable ease in any part of Europe. To seek out opportunity from Scandinavia to the Mediterranean, from the Atlantic to the Black Sea; to carve out a living – temporary or permanent – anywhere on a continent where English is the language most widely spoken (understood by more than half of all adults and rising).

    But if we leave the European Union this fabulous freedom will be drastically curtailed.

    Students studying at universities in England and Wales pay the highest tuition fees in Europe. Yet if Brexit comes to pass, British graduate career opportunities on the continent will be significantly reduced.

    Indeed, anyone facing challenging job prospects here would find it much, much harder to improve their lot – as many in the 1980s did – by hopping across the North Sea.

    Little wonder that Scotland has hinted that it would pursue independence again if Britain were to leave the EU.

    Meanwhile, somewhat ironically, nationals from other European countries who are currently working in Britain would continue to have the best of both worlds; UK residency plus the freedom to work in the EU.

    Yes, there is clearly much about the European Union that can be improved. But we won’t have any say in the matter if we’re not in it, and we will certainly be closing a door for many Britons if we’re out of it.

    I’m a Europhile. A fan since I picked up my first Interrail pass. But I also know that economic circumstances can change at least as quickly today as they did in the 1980s. I’ll be voting to stay in and to keep that door open.

  25. Gordon Bridger Reply

    February 9, 2016 at 9:14 am

    I trust the following thoughts will be helpful:

    Will we benefit or not economically by leaving the EU?

    Under the legally binding General Agreement of Tariffs and Trade to which almost all countries belong discriminatory trade restrictions are not allowed.

    The EU would have a to apply their common external tariff against us – which in general terms is stated to be about 3%.

    We would have exactly the same restrictions as the non-EU world has and incidentally countries like the USA, China, Australia and many other have been increasing their trade faster to the EU than we have.

    Furthermore, why should current EU members penalise us as they export more to us than we do to them? The claims that we will lose hundreds of thousands of jobs if we opt out is most unlikely.

    Will foreign investment decline if we opt out?

    There is this possibility if foreign investors think that access to the EU will be more difficult and we depend heavily on foreign direct investment to maintain our balance of payments, could be a factor. This could lead to a devaluation of the £ which would not be a bad thing as we could then export more and rectify our adverse trade figures.


    They have made a huge contribution to our economy so far, and better-off people have benefited though it has created a resentful working class.

    While generous welfare benefits may be an overstated factor as a political factor which should not be ignored.

    The number of refugees will create increasing social tensions as we now see in what were once model tolerant societies of Sweden and Denmark. We face a housing crisis and increasing need for schools and health services.

    More influence if in than out?

    This is a good argument, but our vote is only around 8%.

    I used to sit on a committee years ago in Brussels when we had 23% of the vote as did Germany and France, but although we were better staffed professionally than any other country, the Germans and French always voted politically and we lost.

    Now as a major financial contributor we are likely to be outvoted by a majority East European financial beneficiaries.

    Our bargaining position is now very strong as it would be a disaster for a community in serious economic and social rouble if we left Germany having to support the Mediterranean countries.

    And Eastern European countries would lose out through immigration controls and loss of financial subsidies.

    It seems to me we have used our negotiating strength very badly with Cameron telling everyone he wants to stay in and demanding very little.

    There may be time for a better deal?

  26. Terry Stevenson Reply

    February 9, 2016 at 2:49 pm

    In reply to Harry Eve:

    We cannot even manage to redistribute economic opportunities in our own country, so to expect it across Europe is a somewhat ‘rose-tinted’ view.

    As Norman Tebbit famously said, ‘Get on your bike’.

    Speaking as a British economic migrant, who took him at his word, and moved to where the work was, perhaps the time has now come to have internal borders within our own country.

    That said, I seem to recall the Scots recently rejecting the idea.

  27. Harry Eve Reply

    February 10, 2016 at 8:08 am

    In reply to Terry Stevenson:

    Or maybe even borders within Guildford borough to stop the Executive destroying its countryside.

    I agree we need to redistribute economic opportunities in the UK, but there seems to be no political will to do it – rather the opposite with airport expansion in the south east and HS2 starting in London.

    As for the EU, it is too dogmatic even to consider change where change is needed.

    I cannot see it ever accepting that there is anything wrong with any of the principles enshrined within it or that it needs to react quickly to problems that they create.

    I would prefer fundamental change to leaving, but it seems unlikely that will happen.

  28. Terry Stevenson Reply

    February 18, 2016 at 1:09 pm

    Back to the vellum then; be it tradition, dogma, or cost effective.

  29. Bernard Parke Reply

    February 19, 2016 at 8:15 am

    In the last century we fought two world wars against European domination.

    Are we now to just let this domination of our democracy overwhelm us and make us subservient to Brussels?

    • Mark Insoll Reply

      February 23, 2016 at 2:53 pm

      In the last century a divided and mutually suspicious Europe fell into war twice, with truly appalling world wide consequences.

      The European Union is an institution intended to prevent European nations falling out with each other in this way again.

      Not surprisingly, the governance of a union comprising 28 nations is highly complicated. This complexity makes it easy for people to be persuaded that they should worry that national democracy is being overwhelmed and that we’re being made subservient to Brussels.

      The way to allay those worries, or to confirm them, is to understand how the institutions of the European Union actually work.

      Fortunately there are plenty of resources available online.

  30. Liz O'Brien Reply

    February 19, 2016 at 12:09 pm

    I have read this article with great interest and I like the way both sides of the issue are given equal value.

    I can see by the intense debate that there is huge interest in this defficult decision.

    Thank you Dragon for airing this debate.

    I now have a better understanding of the issues and feel I will be able to make my decision now I feel better informed.

  31. Stuart Barnes Reply

    February 20, 2016 at 8:01 am

    Now that we can see what Dave has brought back from the unreformable EU we need to redouble our efforts to get out.

    We continue to send £55 million per day to the ‘corrupt’ EU – a body whose independent external auditors have refused to certify its accounts because of fraud and corruption 19 years in succession.

    No improvement on our virtually open doors to immigration (started deliberately by the late unlamented Blair/Brown regime) or our sovereignty.

    I cannot see also how Dave’s deal will improve the costs of the unlimited immigration which has already taken place, let alone that to come.

    The costs of subsidising all those incomers here in terms of NHS, schools, housing, benefits, criminality, etc., etc., are enormous and we can see our poor little country being changed for the worse in front of our eyes.

    In summary, Dave asked for nothing and came back with half of nothing. It is obvious that he has contempt for us – the people of England who have not spoken yet – and relies on our stupidity to follow him blindly! Well let’s sock it to him – vote out – it may be our last chance to save what is left of our country.

    An extra benefit of voting to get out is that Dave will have to resign as PM if we do.

  32. Gordon Bridger Reply

    February 29, 2016 at 5:59 pm

    I have obtained some very interesting information from a recent IBRD report on our trade with the EU.

    1. In 1995 ur trade deficit with the EU was £11 billion – the most recent figure is £60 billion – a more than fivefold increase.

    2. Our trade with the EU increased at 3,5% per annum compared with 6.6% with outside bodies.

    3. The main reason for this difference is that our trade with EU has been in goods – services to them which have not been liberalised have not increased much.

    4. Our trade increase with non EU has been largely in services.

    The argument that the EU is going to discriminate agains us when they have a huge trade surplus is absurd. Actually we could be erecting trade barriers against them and we would be better off. Think how our car industry would benefit if there were are discriminatory tariff on EU cars.

    Since the whole reason for us joining the EU and agreeing massive subsidies for farmers was to gain access to a free market in goods – mainly manufactures, this policy seems to have been a spectacular failure.

    The EU is like a beautiful galleon with a badly built hull manned by unruly sailors and with a captain who has nobly but without consultation agreed to save large numbers of others from sinking ship.

    Do we want to go down with them?

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